BANNED! The Funniest TV Ads That Were Axed

They Were Pulled From TV, But You Can See Them Here

Sex. Drugs. Rock 'n' roll. There can be a number of reasons a TV ad is banned. Usually, the content can is too overtly sexual or shows nudity. There can be foul language or offensive imagery. The ad may be telling blatant lies, or be misleading. The ad could even make people feel sick.

However, sometimes ads are pulled, and when you look back at them you’re left scratching your head and wondering “why was THAT one banned?!” Here are 10 banned commercials from around the world, some of which are funny, others controversial, but they all got their product noticed. And getting noticed is the most important thing an ad can do for any product or client. 


Xbox Life Is Short
Xbox Life Is Short.

Some people loved it. A lot of people hated it. This intense ad for the original Xbox console features a woman giving birth to a baby that is shot across the room, out of the window, and flies through the air. As it does, it gets older, turning from teen​ to adult to senior, before landing with a thud in a grave. The message: Life is short; play more. If you think about it, if life is truly short, you probably shouldn't spend hours sitting in front of a TV screen playing video games. 


VW Polo

Mark this one as "what were they thinking?!" Suicide bombing is hardly a fun subject (although the film "Four Lions" managed to poke fun at terrorism in a masterful way). However, this one, a 20-second car ad, is just way too insensitive. And although the ending is somewhat amusing, someone still dies to sell a car. 


Durex Hundred Million. YouTube

As always, ads that approach the subject of sex or sexuality come under way more scrutiny than ads containing violence. This one, which uses humor, is a great example of how condom ads can be both memorable and on brand. The giant condom at the end, filled with millions of animated sperm, was apparently too much for the censors. 

Agent Provocateur: KYLIE

Kylie - Agent Provocateur
Kylie - Agent Provocateur. Youtube

It's fairly evident why this spot only made it to cinemas and not regular TV. It features music sensation Kylie Minogue wearing some see-through lingerie, riding a mechanical bull, and performing some NSFW moves. At the end of the ad, she asks all the men in the audience to stand up; proving in a scandalous way that the lingerie has the desired effect. 


Person eating pasta

All three commercials from the Ikea “Tidy Up” campaign were initially banned, probably due to a mix of overt sexuality and “I don’t want to explain that one to my kids.” Honestly, these should never have been stopped from airing; they are funny, well executed, and absolutely on point. Anyone who’s ever been to Ikea knows that they are in the business of home organization. Great, memorable advertising. 

Deutsche Postbank: PHONE CALL

Man fixing his cuff links

It’s a simple enough scenario. A seemingly wealthy businessman is getting dressed at his local private health club when he receives a call from his wife. And oh, how she likes to spend money. He gives her the green light on every request; right down to the $1.4 million house she wants. Why was it banned? Perhaps it encouraged people to do something that could lead to a lot of trouble. 


Man sitting in a tile room
Levi's Blind Man. YouTube

Ever since the BBH ads of the '80s (remember Laundromat?), Levi’s ads have had an inherent coolness to them. This banned ad from the UK is no exception, although it clearly crossed a line for the TV watchdogs. By today’s standards it’s relatively tame, but back then it was considered too steamy to go on air. However, it has been featured numerous times in those “too hot for TV” ad compilations. 

Planet Fitness: HOT

Planet Fitness Hot. Screen grab via YouTube

There’s a reason this ad works and works well. People are scared of going to the gym, and it’s not just the ladies. Men have the same issues with the extreme weightlifters who flex in front of the mirror for 45 minutes and have biceps on their triceps. Sure, the women in this ad are not wearing a whole lot, but it’s a lot more than a Victoria’s Secret ad, and the point of the ad has some merits, which may make one wonder why was this one banned at all?


Girl with her hand out

Tense, foreboding music sets the scene. The atmosphere is grim and clinical not unlike the infamous scene between Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham in Manhunter (one which is underrated and acted superbly by Brian Cox and William Peterson). The orange jumpsuit, the hand on the glass, it’s all leading to a brilliant reveal. Why this Canadian commercial was banned is a bigger puzzle than anything Lecter ever left for Graham or Starling. 

Yellow Pages: HAIRCUT

Yellow Pages ad

Does anyone use the Yellow Pages, or other phone directories, any more? The ad appears dated today but was topical at the time. You may hear the little girl call the inept barber “Uncle James.” That is indeed James Nesbitt, star of "The Hobbit," "Jekyll," and "Cold Feet." Many people may be left to wonder why this ad was banned. 


Two women in a girl's room

There are obvious clues as to why this one was banned; young girls in a bedroom who were having a pillow fight. If that’s all it was, it’s pretty weak. But when the tables turn, and Helga unleashes the fury, it becomes funny and unexpected. It’s hard to make an impact in the beer category; this one had teeth. 

Toyota Rav 4: MURDER

Woman with wild hair

No actual murdering takes place in the ad, but some would say the cartoon violence takes things a little too far. When you consider what else has been shown on our screens, the obvious silliness of what is being portrayed here should not have been any cause for concern. Did they really think anyone watching would mimic what they saw in the ad? Perhaps. 


Tango Orangeman with a group of kids

From English agency HHCL came an ad in 1992 that got everyone's attention. Sadly, that included a lot of kids who copied the antics of the Orangeman, smacking the ears of classmates and endangering their hearing. The ad was altered to make it a kiss...kind of, but still, the Tango work remains some of the most inventive ever done to sell a soft drink. 

Toohey's Beer: BOTTLE OPENER

Toohey's Beer. Screen grab via YouTube

Australia has always been much more liberal when it comes to advertising. So how this one got banned is a mystery, considering it’s a very tame sexual innuendo joke. It would fly over the heads of any kids watching, and the actual reveal is PG. You might need to allow your mind to travel to the gutter for a second. It’s memorable. 


A woman and a child walking

A recent addition to the "pulled quickly from the airwaves" files is this horrendous effort from McDonald's in the UK. Not just one person, but a whole slew of people said yes to an ad selling a fish burger by remembering a dead father and husband. The manipulation and tone-deaf quality of the ad caused controversy, and it was yanked.